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Teenagers are tough. Here is one way we tried to respond to our childrens’ needs and to create happy memories at the same time.

We usually drag our son, Andrew, through our sedate lives even though he’d rather experience more exciting adventures. My husband and I decided to shake things up and instead have Andrew inspire a family outing that the rest of us would normally be afraid to do.

I woke up that morning duly afraid, but when the pilot was strapping me in, and Andrew then squeezed in beside me, I had no fear at all. The two of us were together due to the 330 pound weight limit. My husband and younger daughter would go up together after Andrew and I took our turn. Because it was so tight in the back seat of the glider, I had to wrap my arm around my sixteen-year old son, and for the first time in a while, hug him for an extended period. We needed it. And he had no choice anyway. Once we were in, the pilot gave us a few minor instructions, primarily not to touch the red knob that releases the cord between us and our tow. Then he hopped in the seat at the dashboard, and the bubble top was lowered over us.

After a thumbs-up exchange, the pilot of the prop plane started hauling off through the field and we dragged along behind, bumping and thumping and jostling about until suddenly we were silently in the air. It felt as if we were floating, no sound besides wind whooshing by, as we went higher and higher, and out of sight of my husband and daughter back on the ground. Snug in my embrace with my son I saw, very cartoon-like, out the front windshield, the small yellow prop plane that was hauling us along, waggling its wings up and down with the winds, and the long cord connecting us.

Before I knew it, our pilot announced we were separating. He released the cord between us and our tow, and the next thing I knew he was banking far to the right and the little yellow prop plane was slipping away to the left. We floated around above the ridge, our pilot casually pointing out our view of the Appalachian Trail as we floated further and further. I tried to be calm, and to feel my son’s status, which seemed calm as well. Then our pilot turned us again, back across the ridge and as we moved higher and higher, back and forth across the ridge he pointed out the Delaware Water Gap, apparently, an actual gap in the mountains. Cool.

The pilot turned the plane sharply and my head felt thick as it hugged the plastic bubble above me. Andrew started to move a bit as his large frame was getting cramped in our embrace. I took my arm out from behind him and put it between us using the other arm to lean into him. It was just too small a space for us not to share it closely. It was lovely and quiet and lofty to be above the earth in a flying machine. Counter-intuitively I thought, when we banked hard to the left or to the right, and I saw the earth suddenly appear directly below me even though I hadn’t turned my head at all, surprisingly we did not pull into a downward spiral, a fast spin to the ground. But a glider apparently has extra long wings that prevent that kind of thing, even when we spotted a bald eagle and followed its glide pattern in ever smaller circles.

Then we seemed to be going down, and I saw the little airport again. It was over practically before it started, and it was all so lovely. Yes, we were coming in, and before you knew it, we were touching down quietly on the little grassy field and sliding along on our wing wheels to a quiet stop. Andrew was smiling. My normally growly teenager, and I, had managed to enjoy the ride despite being smashed next to one another, in a tiny cockpit for half and hour alone up in the sky, just for fun.